What Else Don’t We Know?

The AP reports:

Iran has revealed the existence of a secret uranium-enrichment plant, the International Atomic Agency said Friday, a development that could heighten fears about Tehran’s ability to produce a nuclear weapon and escalate its diplomatic confrontation with the West.

This sort of news entirely undermines the Obama administration’s immediate and long-term decision-making on Iran. In the short run, the administration’s new intelligence estimate cooked up to justify pulling out of missile defense for Eastern Europe looks foolish. Do we really know all that much about Iran’s nuclear plans and capability? How much confidence do we really have that Iran is not well on its way to long-term missile development or that it doesn’t have plants beyond the one we knew about and the one just now revealed? The president should deploy some of that skepticism he’s reserved for Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s Afghanistan recommendation and apply it to his Iran calculations.

And in the long run, we should be wary of our ability to detect and monitor a nuclear program in a closed, repressive society. Wow—we get to interview Iran scientists. Yes, while their family remains under the watchful eye of Iranian authorities. The report dryly notes:

The revelation of a secret plant further hinders the chances of progress in scheduled Oct. 1 talks between Iran and six world powers.

At that meeting—the first in more than a year—the five permanent U.N. Security Council members and Germany plan to press Iran to scale back on its enrichment activities. But Tehran has declared that it will not bargain on enrichment. Iran’s nuclear negotiator dismissed the threat of new sanctions in an interview released Friday.

Saeed Jalili said that Iran has ”the right to uranium enrichment, and we will never give up this right,” the German weekly Der Spiegel reported.

”We have lived with sanctions for 30 years, and they cannot force a great nation like the Iranian one to its knees,” Jalili told Der Spiegel. ”They do not scare us. On the contrary: we welcome new sanctions.”

Today the president conceded that the facility is “inconsistent” with a peaceful nuclear program. Well, that’s a first. Now let’s see if he can get around to the part about holding Iran “accountable” for its lies and violations of international sanctions.